NHL Development Camps largely concluded across the league this past weekend, and former Pistons goalie Matthew Thiessen will head into his summer training with some newly learned skills and some memorable experiences.
Thiessen was back at Vancouver Canucks Development Camp for his second go-around. He was selected by the Canucks in the 7th round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft from the Pistons.
“This year I felt more comfortable going into camp having met some players and coaches in my first year,” Thiessen said when asked about his mindset going into his second development camp. “It’s something I got excited for, especially this year where I was meeting some new people.”
Thiessen explained that he got to work exclusively with new Canucks goalie coach Ian Clark over the course of the camp. “Meeting him and working with him throughout the week was a great week filled with new information and things I can improve on through the summer and into next year,” he recalled.
The Canucks organization always plans some team-bonding events away from the rink, and this year was no exception, with activities such as a cook-off in a restaurant and the annual taxing team hike up the Grouse Grind trail in Vancouver. “The Grouse Grind is definitely a grind,” the Altona native said. “We are trying to get to the top as fast as we can, and it’s extremely tough. But I thought I had a pretty good time, and the reward of running as hard as you can is the beautiful view at the top, which this year we weren’t able to see because it was pouring rain and foggy.”
Thiessen shared a funny story from the cook-off. “I took a bet to eat a red-hot chili pepper, and oh boy,” he exclaimed. “They should have had a warning sign for things because they hurt so bad.
“Once I got that taste out of my mouth, I could enjoy getting to know all of the boys and also learn how to cook some delicious food!”
But for the former Pistons rookie standout, what stuck out with him was visiting a local children’s hospital to hang out with kids who are dealing with varying illnesses.
“To go in there and give the kids some hockey cards, or playing with Fin (Canucks mascot), and to see the smiles on their faces, it made my day,” Thiessen explained. “I would have never thought as a younger kid that I would be the one who kids look up to and want to be like. I’m very blessed to be in a situation where I can help and inspire kids.”
After playing the 2017-18 season with the Pistons in which he was a Turnbull and ANAVET Cup champion, Thiessen headed down south to the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints where he was teammates and roommates with former Piston and fellow champion Riese Gaber. He was the starting goaltender for the Fighting Saints, posting a 3.07 GAA in 47 games played. But like in Steinbach, he caught fire in the postseason and led the upstart Saints into the second round of the USHL playoffs. In six games, he had a 2.48 GAA and a .925 SV%.
Thiessen will be headed to the University of Maine next season, a school in which he committed to while with the Pistons. His intention this summer is to be ready for college hockey and to spend time with his family. “Right now, I’m in Kelowna training and getting ready for next season,” he said. “I’m here until Friday, and then I head home for a couple of days before heading up north on a fishing trip. Other than that, I’ll be staying in Altona skating and training until I head to school at the end of July.”
Thiessen was very thankful for another memorable development camp. “The whole coaching staff, equipment staff, trainers and supporting cast was tremendous, and made everything at camp another amazing experience.”